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October 24, 2011

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Home » Metro » Entertainment and Culture

Expats speak highly of learning Shanghai dialect

AT a time that local children have grown more accustomed to speaking Mandarin, many expats are showing great interest in learning and speaking the Shanghai dialect.

The Shanghai dialect lesson launched by Tongji University for foreign students is extremely popular on campus. Students from different countries including, the United States, Britain and Japan, pack the optional class to learn how to say "Where are you from?" "I'm a Shanghainese" and many other useful things to say in Shanghai dialect every week.

"Foreign students said learning the dialect helps them communicate with locals and makes life easier," said Xu Juan, an official with the International School of Tongji University.

The dialect also helps expats get a deep understanding of local culture and makes them feel proud amid others' surprise and praise, she said.

Some students can name some famous local writers, including Cheng Naishan and Chen Danyan.

An American student, whose Chinese name is Sima Zhe, said in a TV interview that he could make more friends by speaking the dialect as many service workers in his dormitory are Shanghainese.

Apart from the expats, some out-of-town Chinese also sit in on the class to learn the dialect for a better integration into city life. Liu Jianmei, teacher of the class and a Shanghainese, said that hearing them talking in Shanghaihua made her very happy and proud.

The university launched the class in 1998 but it didn't become popular until recently.

"Teachers have shifted the focus from the dialect theories to language skills and the class has become more attractive now," Xu said.

Contrary to non-locals' passion for the Shanghai dialect, many young Shanghainese seldom speak the dialect and children find it difficult to speak it.

Afugen Talks, a popular radio show broadcast in Shanghai dialect, could soon end because of the difficulty in finding the dialect speakers with the required skills.

The two anchors retire in five years, and the search has begun for new presenters for the 50-year-old show.


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